"Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou

Essay by i0u0y0 June 2008

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Question:Explore the ways in which Maya Angelou uses the 'Caged Bird' metaphor to present her ideas.

Consider the range of poetic devices, language, poet's message, technique, etc.

The poem ’Caged Bird’ composed by Maya Angelou depicts the contrast between good and evil, black and white, freedom and imprisonment. It also displays deeper meanings and connections to how the blacks were and are treated by the white. The caged bird can be considered as the black race, trapped in a life of misery, hardship and depression. However the bird (blacks) has some hope to be saved.

The poem starts off with the bird being free, the time when the blacks still were leading their simplistic life in Africa. Life seems easy; one can do whatever one feels like doing. Verbs are emphasized through sibilance which conveys a flowing structure of the poem and the easy flow of life. But it can also pertain to the white man as the final line reveals; ‘And dares to claim the sky’ shows how the white is trying to claim the entire world.

However stanza 2 and 3 carry words with negative connotations in them. They speak of a bird that is caged; the black man as a slave in America, their freedom of choice is undermined by the white. The ‘bars of rage’ are the black man’s anger which also can be considered as a hindrance for him to do anything, too blinded by his fierce anger and not seeking any possible outcome to the problem. The repeated ‘o’ sound in the final line in stanza 2 creates the impression that the call for freedom never ends (‘so he opens his throat to sing’). He is hoping for salvation repeatedly, with a ‘fearful trill’. The distant hill displays how far freedom is away...